A Victorian father is in a battle to keep his family together after being given orders to leave the country by next Wednesday.
Gagandeep Singh, an Indian national, has lived in Australia for 14 years after coming here on a student visa in 2009.
He has an Australian wife, Phoebe, who he married in 2015, and a three-year-old son, Jarro.
The young family lives in Sale, in the Gippsland region.
Singh runs his own trucking business, employing two staff members, and Phoebe is a casual aged care worker.
Five weeks ago, the family were told his appeals for a ministerial intervention to grant him a partner visa had been rejected.
His temporary bridging visa will expire on May 11.
Now, the young family is facing the prospect of spending at least two years apart while Singh returns to India to apply for a partner visa offshore and waits for it to be approved.
“It’s very hard just thinking about being away for two years. It’s a time when we should be making memories,” Singh told 9news.com.au.
“My son, he adores his daddy, he loves his daddy.
“Every evening when I get home from work he is excited to see me.”
Singh’s immigration lawyer, Joseph Italiano, said his client was paying a terrible price for an immigration regulation in Australia which prevents people from applying for a partner visa twice while onshore.
Before Singh met his wife Phoebe a decade ago, he was in a relationship with another Australian woman and they applied for a partner visa together.
However, the relationship broke down.
‘I would like to say to the minister, don’t tear our family apart’
Despite marrying and starting a family with Phoebe, Singh was not able to apply for a partner visa with her because of his previous application, Italiano said.
“He couldn’t lodge a new partner visa because he’d already lodged one before and the law stops you lodging two in Australia,” he said.
Italiano said it was an emotionally devastating case.
“It is really cruel and inhumane to remove a father from a three-year-old for two years when the father can come back by applying for a partner visa offshore,” Italiano said.
However, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had the power to grant Singh a partner visa “at the stroke of a pen”, Italiano said.
“So the minister, all he has to do is intervene and grant this family a partner visa and it’s in the child’s best interest for him to do so,” he said.
Singh first made a request for the minister to intervene in his case back in 2019, when his son Jarro was just a few months old.
It took three years before his request was rejected in April this year.
The family will now make another request for a ministerial intervention.
Singh said he was extremely worried about how his family would cope both financially and emotionally if he was forced to return to India.
“I would like to say to the minister, don’t tear our family apart,” he said.
“He has the power to do anything. I need to be here for my son and my wife.”
Phoebe has been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which causes severe, chronic muscle and body pain.
She also has some mental health issues.
“Sometimes Phoebe is in such pain that she can’t get up until 11 o’clock,” Mr Singh said.
She said her doctor had advised against her moving the whole family to India because of her health.
She also feared the impact moving overseas would have on Jarro, who has been assessed as mathematically gifted.
“Jarro has started kinder, he has started making friends and we don’t want to uproot him to a totally different country where he doesn’t understand the language,” she said.
She said she would not be able to afford the rent on their home if her husband had to move back to India.
It would also be emotionally hard for herself and Jarro, she said.
“Jarro is very attached, what three-year-old isn’t to his father?” Phoebe said.
“Even when Gagandeep goes away for his trucking business he will be saying, ‘Where is daddy, where is daddy?'”
“We actually haven’t explained the legalities of this to him because we don’t want to until we have to.
“But it is getting to be crunch time, the stress is really starting to happen now.”
An online petition started by Phoebe has so far attracted more than 800 signatures.
The family have also reached out to their local Gippsland MP, Darren Chester.
The former Nationals minister has written a letter of support for their case.
9news.com.au has contacted Hawke for comment, who is yet to respond.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement: “The minister only intervenes in a relatively small number of cases which present unique and exceptional circumstances, and where the minister considers that it is in the public interest to do so.
“Ministerial Intervention is not an extension of the visa process.
“A person is able to request intervention, however the minister cannot be compelled to exercise his powers and he is not required to explain his decisions on any case.
“Individuals, whose requests for ministerial intervention have been unsuccessful and who do not have other matters before the department are expected to depart Australia.”
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